By the end of the week, more than 400 students will have completed two days of training that equips them with skills and knowledge to help prevent bullying, violence and other forms of mistreatment on their campuses and in their social circles.

“Students see it, feel it, hear it – many times before adults do. That’s why we tap on that energy,” said Judiciary of Guam project manager Joleen Respicio. “We want them to be ambassadors … for their school community and the island community, to be able to be a positive influence to their friends, help prevent and stop bullying and other forms of mistreatment whenever they can.”

The Judiciary of Guam and the Guam Department of Education wrapped up the first of two Safe School Ambassador training sessions on Tuesday at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort in Tumon.

“We actually teach skills directly to the students, so that they could go back to their schools and help,” Respicio said. “We empower them to be able to intervene using the skills they’ve learned at this training, intervene where they can within their social influence.”

Students were selected from student surveys and nominations from school faculty and staff. Respicio said the participants are often students who have influence over their peers.

A federally funded consolidated grant pays for the evidence-based, field-tested training to be offered annually. About 40 kids each from five schools attended the first session. Five more schools start training today.

Students ‘can change the culture’

Trainer Shay Olivarria works for Community Matters, a nonprofit group in California that specializes in improving the social-emotional climate of our nation’s schools and communities. She said the biggest message she wanted to get across to the students is this: It’s possible for things to be different.

“I think sometimes students don’t understand how much power they have and that they can do something. They can change the culture. They can say I want it to be loving. I want it to be kind,” Olivarria said.

She said students engaged in activities to show them that they are all more alike than they are different, and that they were surprised at how much they had in common with each other.

“We kind of try to hide our vulnerabilities from each other and pretend everything is fine. But when they have the opportunity to talk about some of the not-so-great things in their life, they realize that everybody’s struggling with different things. And I think it makes them more open to being more kind to each other, because we’re all struggling with something,” Olivarria said.